Jussie Smollett sentenced to probation, jail time for staging fake hate crime

Jussie Smollett sentenced to probation, jail time for staging fake hate crime.
Jussie Smollett. Photo credit: Chicago Police

US actor Jussie Smollett, one-time star of the TV drama Empire, was sentenced in a Chicago court to 30 months probation and 150 days in jail on Thursday (local time) for staging a hate crime against himself.

Smollett, 39, was also ordered to pay US$120,000 in restitution and fined US$25,000 by Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Linn.

Smollett was found guilty by a jury in December of five of the six felony disorderly conduct counts he faced, one for each time he was accused of lying to police.

Prosecutors said Smollett, who is Black and gay, lied to police when he told them he was accosted on a dark Chicago street by two masked strangers in January 2019.

Smollett claimed the attackers threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressions of support for former US President Donald Trump.

Police arrested the actor a month later, saying he paid two brothers US$3500 to stage the attack in an effort to raise his show-business profile. He eventually pleaded not guilty to six counts of felony disorderly conduct.

His case took an unexpected turn in spring 2019 when the Cook County state's attorney's office dropped a 16-count indictment against him in exchange for Smollett forfeiting his US$10,000 bond without admitting wrongdoing.

The dismissal drew criticism from then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago's police superintendent, who called the reversal a miscarriage of justice.

In 2019, a special prosecutor assigned to the case recommended charging Smollett again and a grand jury returned an indictment.

Smollett's acting career declined after the incident. He lost his role as a singer-songwriter in the final season of Empire, a Fox television hip-hop drama that ended a five-year run in 2020.